Fact Sheet: Water, Desal, & UCSC Expansion

What are the plans for UCSC expansion?

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UCSC’s Long Range Development Plan calls for development of 240 acres north of campus in what is now part of a Natural Reserve.

What is LAFCO’s role in the decision on UCSC expansion?

The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) is the County government agency that will decide whether the City of Santa Cruz can extend its water service boundary to service the new development north of campus.

How will LAFCO make the decision?

LAFCO’s policy standard reads: “In any proposal requiring water service, the Commission requires that the agency that will provide the water will need to demonstrate the availability of an adequate, reliable and sustainable supply of water.”

Does Santa Cruz have an adequate water supply to serve the proposed expansion?

The Environmental Impact Report on the proposed service extension reads:  “There are inadequate water supplies to serve the project under existing and future multiple dry year conditions”.

The letter from the National Marine Fisheries Service to LAFCO reads: “It does not appear that current water supplies are sufficient to meet current demand and protect listed salmonids, let alone allow for increased demands resulting from expansion of the City’s service area.”

If the current water supply is inadequate, can LAFCO approve the expansion?

In order to approve the project, despite an EIR that concludes that the water supply is inadequate, LAFCO would need to adopt a “Statement of Overriding Consideration”. This statement is a claim that the benefits to the community of approving the expansion outweigh the harm done by placing more strain on inadequate water resources. Political considerations often influence such a decision.

What is the position of Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives on water for campus expansion?

SC Desal Alternatives urges that LAFCO defer consideration of the UCSC application until after the state and federal fisheries agencies have come to an agreement with the City of Santa Cruz on how much water must be left in the streams for fish habitat. It LAFCO approves the expansion without having this information, the drought risk for existing water customers will increase. Water conservation measures that could be used to minimize the drought risk for existing water customers would instead be devoted to offsetting UCSC growth.  The pressure to build a highly energy intensive, expensive and environmentally damaging desalination plant will be exacerbated.

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